COURT WATCH: Pokémon Theft – Judge Calls Defense Request for Reduction from Felony to Misdemeanor ‘Close Call’ 

By Estelle Masse and Madison Whittemore

WOODLAND, CA – During a preliminary hearing for an accused man who is unhoused and going through a “tough time,” certified legal intern Devon Cable opposed the defense “17(b) motion” to reduce the accused’s grand theft felony charge to a misdemeanor here in Yolo County Superior Court Monday.

Appearing under the supervision of Deputy District Attorney Aloysius Patchen, Cable asserted the accused’s charge should remain a felony because the accused “was fully intending to leave with all of those items and he told the officer that, and at the end of the day that’s what matters.”

The accused is facing one charge of felony grand theft on May 16,  and was present out of custody for his preliminary hearing.

West Sacramento Police Officer Hannah Costar was the only witness called to testify in the preliminary by certified legal intern Cable.

Questioned by Cable, Officer Costar explained the call she received from a Target loss prevention officer, who alleged they had stopped the accused with “several items in his cart he did not pay for” valued over $1,000 at a Target store.

An itemized receipt was presented to Costar by prosecution intern Cable, who agreed that it was a “fair and accurate” depiction of the types of items in the accused’s cart, which Officer Costar described as consisting of “mostly various Pokémon cards and…some miscellaneous items as well.”

Officer Costar said the accused had told her “he had planned on selling the Pokémon cards on OfferUp” and that he was unhoused with “about $5 to his name” that day.

Deputy Public Defender Cheyanne Martin clarified the pre-tax total of the items in the accused’s cart was about $1,034 and the post-tax total was $1119.28,

DPD Martin had a brief exchange with Costar, asking whether “all the items that were in the car were recovered… He didn’t try to run? He didn’t try to flee?” to which Officer Costar agreed.

Promptly after the conclusion of Officer Costar’s testimony, DPD Martin appealed to Judge David Rosenberg, asking him to use the court’s discretion to reduce her client’s felony charge to a misdemeanor under the 17(b) motion.

DPD Martin said the accused was cooperative throughout the entire investigation, the incident itself was non-violent, and all items in the shopping cart were returned.

DPD Martin asked the court to grant her 17(b) motion, stating, “My client was unhoused during that time. He only had $5 to his name. He advised folks during that time that he was trying to get through a tough time.”

Along with highlighting the accused’s financial and housing struggles, DPD Martin asserted the pre-tax amount and post-tax amount of the allegedly stolen items were “very close to the $950 threshold that makes this case a felony.”

DPD Martin added the accused has displayed good behavior on his supervised own recognizance (SOR) since being released from custody during his arraignment, has shown up on time to every court date, and is not a threat to public safety.

Certified legal intern Cable claimed the accused was “not new to this kind of crime” but when asked by Judge Rosenberg whether he had been convicted of any other thefts, she responded that “he’s certainly been arrested,” to which Judge Rosenberg responded, “I don’t care about arrests.”

Certified legal intern Cable clarified the accused was convicted of “misdemeanor and a felony vehicle theft” within the year and as far as this case, “he was fully intending to leave with those items… and at the end of the day, that’s what matters.”

Judge Rosenberg said, “The thing that concerns me is that I understand when people are down on their luck and are homeless and are needy, but this wasn’t a theft of food…or toilet paper…This was a theft of Pokémon cards.

“These kinds of thefts are a big deal to retail companies. These loss prevention officers, these people who work at Target…it’s what they do, I mean this is their livelihood, this is their job and when you take things from other people or companies you’re stealing from the people as much as the company.”

Despite acknowledging multiple times throughout the preliminary hearing that reducing the accused’s felony charge to a misdemeanor was a “close call,” Judge Rosenberg ultimately granted DPD Martin’s request to reduce the accused’s charge.

Judge Rosenberg explained felony theft charges were often handled at the discretion of the judge presiding over the case because, even though $950 is the limit set, “it could’ve been $975, it could’ve been $1500.”

The accused will remain out of custody and will return to court July 15 for a trial-setting conference, with Judge Rosenberg urging both DPD Martin and certified legal intern Cable to resolve the case because it appeared there would be “not much to dispute at a trial.”

About The Author

Madison Whittemore is a rising junior at the University of California, Davis where she studies political science and psychology. After completing her undergraduate studies, Madison wants to go to law school and study criminal law while working to improve efforts for prison reform and representation for lower income citizens.

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